Envahisseurs (Invaders)

Feb 6 2024 | By More

★★★★★     Jelly crime

Manipulate Festival 2024
Traverse: Sun 4 Feb 2024
Review by Thom Dibdin

It’s the little things which count in Compagnie Bakélite’s intense table-top object theatre, Envahisseurs (Invaders), at the Traverse as part of the Manipulate Festival 2024 for two performances only.

In this constantly surprising production, director and performer Olivier Rannou recreates a retro-Fifties, UFO-scare B-movie vibe. From alien abduction to full-on invasion of the Earth, he makes all come to life pulling out objects from of a succession of black briefcases and finding them secreted about his person.

Olivier Rannou in Envahisseurs (Invaders) from Compagnie Bakélite.

It’s more than just the objects, however. Rannou is very much a part of the performance, more so than your usual puppeteer. He’s jammed up against the door, in his funereal suit and white-faced, Addams Family-like makeup, gurning down at the audience as they troop past into the auditorium.

He is a part of the physical structure of the storytelling too. He leers down onto the table, a red light shining out of his mouth as a tiny house is opened up and its occupant levitated into an interplanetary craft.

Once flying away in the craft, a new briefcase is opened up,  in a brilliant move of focus, to reveal a human torso. That is opened up too, by a spindly, green, three-fingered hand, the torso’s organs tasted and discarded.

A small six inch screen plays clips from black and white movies to provide a soundtrack to the arrival of the aliens. Recognizable monuments – Pisa’s leaning tower and the rest – are threatened with… well the confectionary form of flying saucers. Those ones which contain fizzy sherbet in a rice-paper coating.

Olivier Rannou in Envahisseurs (Invaders) from Compagnie Bakélite.

With the world’s military bristling in plastic soldier form, the pièce de résistance is the arrival the first alien. A tiny, back-lit green jelly, that wobbles across the table-top and heralds the most explosive of crescendoes and culminates in all-out goo-throwing war.

Such description might feel like too many spoilers, but they are only a miniscule amount of the invention and detail of this all-too-brief, 25 minute show, created by Rannou and his staging consultant Gaëtan Emeraud and honed to perfection since its first creation in 2018.

Envahisseurs is both intense and hilarious by turns. Its underlying message of not destroying the other because you don’t understand it yet, is a powerful one. And is, ironically, almost the diametric opposite of the communist threat undertones of the B-movies from which this draws its inspiration.

A quite brilliant example of just how inventive you can get with a bundle of found objects, a little bit of conjuring prowess and good understanding of table-top pyrotechnics. Oh, and how to make a great green jelly.

Running time: 25 minutes (no interval)
Traverse, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED.
Sun 4 Feb 2024
Fri: 6pm; Sat: 1pm (Trav 2).
Run ended.
Compagnie Bakélite website: www.compagnie-bakelite.com

Olivier Rannou in Envahisseurs (Invaders) from Compagnie Bakélite.


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